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Health Headlines - January 7

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Sharon's Brain Scan Shows 'Slight' Improvement

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's latest brain scan on Saturday showed there was no more bleeding in his skull and his condition showed "slight" improvement, hospital officials in Jerusalem said.

But doctors for the 77-year-old leader, who has been in a medically induced coma and on a respirator since entering the hospital with a cerebral hemorrhage Wednesday night, say it's still too early to determine the extent of his brain damage.

"We don't know anything apart from this test," Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director of Hadassah Hospital, told reporters Saturday, according to the Globe and Mail.

Mor-Yosef said the left side of Sharon's brain "looks better" than the right side where the hemorrhage occurred, despite the swelling and pressure. The pressure inside his brain is now steady, and all other vital signs including pulse and blood pressure are within normal range. Doctors have also said his pupils are responding to light.

The scan came a day after doctors performed five hours of neurosurgery on Sharon to successfully stop a hemorrhage and relieve swelling on his brain.

Although doctors reported "significant improvement" following Friday's emergency surgery, the third since Wednesday, he remained in serious condition.

Doctors were reportedly still planning to bring him out of the coma as early as Sunday to assess his condition.

Outside experts have said, however, that the prognosis looks grim, given the severity of the stroke, the Associated Press reported.

That massive stroke followed a mild one Sharon had Dec. 18 and occurred the night before he was scheduled to undergo a procedure to repair a hole in his heart that was discovered after the first stroke.

Deadly Bird Flu Strain Confirmed in Turkey
World Health Organization officials confirmed Saturday that two teenage siblings who died of bird flu in eastern Turkey last week had been infected with the deadly H5N1 strain.

The deaths mark the first time the virus has killed humans outside of East Asia, WHO officials told the Associated Press.

European health officials were on "high alert" after a third child in eastern Turkey was confirmed to have bird flu and more than two dozen people there were under observation at a local hospital.

The unusual cluster of human cases has raised the possibility that the virus may have become more contagious to humans, The New York Times reported.

Health authorities said the Turkish children from the town of Dogubeyazit probably became ill after close contact with sick or dead chickens infected with the virus. Reports in the Turkish press said that two siblings who died, Mehmet Ali Kocyigit, 14, and his sister, Fatma, 15, had been playing catch with the heads of dead chickens.

Two other children in the Kocyigit family were also recently hospitalized in the city of Van with severe respiratory disease. One died Friday, and the other is recovering, although tests have not yet confirmed their diagnoses.

An additional 26 people are in the Van hospital under observation for possible bird flu, the Turkish Anatolia news agency reported.

While the H5N1 virus does not readily infect humans or pass between them, scientists worry that it may acquire that ability through naturally occurring processes, a development that could ultimately set off a flu pandemic.

They add, however, that the Turkey cluster of cases does not mean a mutation has occurred. But WHO and the European Commission have dispatched a joint team of scientists to the region. They are expected to arrive Sunday.

FDA to Revise Herpes Test Rules

Revised rules that could make herpes virus tests cheaper and more widely available have been proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In a proposal released Friday but dated Dec. 21, the FDA said it may change the classification of tests for herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 to class II from class III, which would reduce the regulatory burdens associated with the tests, the Associated Press reported.

The change would open the way for companies seeking to develop and market herpes tests and would also relax the training requirements for laboratories and medical offices that offer the tests, FDA spokeswoman Julie Zawisza said.

The FDA considered reclassifying the tests as long ago as 1980, but said the tests posed a "potential unreasonable risk of illness or injury" at the time. With the older tests, a false positive could expose a pregnant mother or her fetus to unnecessary treatment with antiviral drugs or lead to an unnecessary Caesarean delivery of the child. And a false negative could result in the infection of a newborn infant, which can be fatal.

The agency now says the reliability and performance of the tests has improved. It set an April 10 deadline for comments on the reclassification.

At least 45 million Americans 12 and older have genital herpes, which is generally caused by the type 2 virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Baltimore Named America's Fittest City; Chicago the Fattest

Baltimore has been named America's fittest city by Men's Fitness magazine, and Chicago America's fattest.

The top fittest cities behind Baltimore were Honolulu, Virginia Beach, Va., Tucson, and Milwaukee. And the top fattest cities behind Chicago, according to the magazine, were Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston.

Last year, Baltimore was ranked as the 25th fittest city on a list of Top 25. It vaulted to the lead of this year's list because it was favored by new factors that were taken into account in determining the rankings, the Associated Press reported.

These included: access to health care; air quality; the amount of public park space; the relatively small number of fast-food restaurants, and the leadership of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Last year's fittest city, Seattle, dropped to No. 8 position. Chicago took over the lowest spot from Houston.

Warning Issued on Bleeding Disorder Drug

Some patients with the bleeding disorder called immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) have suffered a potentially deadly loss of red blood cells when taking the medicine WinRho SDF, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Friday.

The FDA and the companies that make the medicine (Baxter Healthcare Corp. and Cangene Corp.) said that ITP patients taking WinRho SDF should immediately contact their doctor if they experience back pain, shaking or chills, fever, discolored urine or decreased urine output, sudden weight gain, fluid retention, swelling or shortness of breath, the Associated Press reported.

Most of the reported adverse reactions to the medicine have occurred within four hours of treatment.

The companies have revised the medicine's label to include the new warning. The revised label also cautions that the liquid form of WinRho SDF can cause false high blood glucose levels in certain kinds of blood glucose testing systems.

People with ITP have an abnormally low level of blood platelets needed for proper blood clotting.

Food Fact:
What's in a name?

An "oatmeal" or "fruit" snack may seem healthy, but names don't always tell the real tale. Oatmeal cookies, for example, don't have enough oatmeal to be nutritionally significant, but the high fat totals should get your attention. Similarly, a fruit roll-up has very little real fruit. For kids' snacks, you can't go wrong with real whole fruit, whole-grain cereal (check the ingredients) and low-fat dairy.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Walk it off.

Who needs special training or fancy gear to tone up your body and perk up your frame of mind? All it takes is your own two feet. Research shows that just 20 minutes a day of brisk walking will lower your risk of serious diseases -- that's just four five-minute walks a day! A half-hour a day is even healthier. Walk 45 minutes a day, and watch your waistline shrink.

FAQ of the day:
Is whole milk bad for me?

Switching from whole dairy to reduced-fat varieties makes a big step toward slashing fat, saturated fat and calories. In an FDA study of 15,000 Americans, women who drank milk averaged 65 grams of fat a day, while skim drinkers took in only 51. Male drinkers of whole milk took in 85 grams, the skim drinkers 74. That's more than 100 calories saved each day. Those who switched to low-fat milk had significant fat savings, too. It wasn't all about the milk: The skim and low-fat milk drinkers tended to eat less red meat, and more fruits and vegetables.
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